Most imported poultry comes from Brazil. In the 2010/2011 year, Brazil subsidised farming to the tune of US$64 billion. On the other hand, South African farmers are the least supported in the world. Nonetheless, they are expected to pay a living wage to workers, deal with the vagaries of the grain policy, and still produce the cheapest, best quality product in the world for South African consumers.
I am a state vet so I inspect pig and poultry farms in Gauteng. I see broiler farmers on the brink of losing everything and for each farmer who goes out of business, some 10 to 20 workers are made redundant. Already, the larger companies are laying off workers in an effort to stay competitive. Brazilian poultry is cheap because of subsidies and low wages in that country. The collapse of the broiler industry in SA will have a catastrophic effect on land reform and on agriculture in general, since many broiler projects are started as a means of black economic empowerment.
Farmers in SA need all the support they can get. By all means they should be competitive on a playing field that is equal but let’s face it – this is not a level playing field. And once the South African broiler industry has been destroyed, the price of imported chicken will rise to above that of local chickens anyway. So I, for one, will be buying South African poultry, knowing that I am contributing to the growth of the rural economy and the upliftment of thousands. I hope that your readers will do the same.